Tito Jackson, man of mayoral action?
It’s just about the worst kept secret in town: Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson seems very likely to challenge Mayor Marty Walsh’s reelection bid next year.
Jackson has said publicly only that he is “strongly considering” a run, but the Globe’s Meghan Irons reports that signs are pointing increasingly in that direction, including Jackson’s hiring of a Kentucky-based fundraiser.
Though Walsh has sought to solidify his standing with voters through a recently announced property tax break and other initiatives, Irons points out that the mayor’s first term has not gone all that swimmingly. Two former aides are under federal indictment, there is anxiety in the air over possible school closings, and the Olympic bid and IndyCar race both flamed out. Jackson, a Roxbury-based district city councilor, was a harsh critic of the Olympic effort who sought to pry loose documents on the bid.
The best way to neutralize a would-be foe is to line up on the same side of an issue. In that way, last month’s charter school ballot question made for an interesting dance. Walsh, a longtime charter booster, came out strongly against the measure, arguing that would destabilize the city’s finances. Jackson tried go a step farther, practically becoming the Boston face of Question 2 opposition as he made himself available for countless forums and debates on the issue.
Voters also look for a degree of ideological compatibility with a candidate. Walsh, who won the backing of a number of key minority figures, including Jackson, in his 2013 run, managed to win over a good chunk of liberal voters for whom neither he nor John Connolly, his final election opponent, may have been a first choice.
Like Tom Menino before him, and Ray Flynn before him, Walsh is a workaday son of white ethnic Boston who has smartly turned leftward and made the cause of various progressive activists his own — whether it’s embracing new tenant protections or launching a citywide conversation on race issues. In that way, it will be hard to find a big expanse by running to his left, while it would be pointless to run to his right in a city where more conservative white voters are becoming a vanishing species.
Jackson — should he take the plunge — will start by trying to energize the city’s black community, which accounts for about a quarter of Boston’s population and grow from there into other minority communities and among liberal-leaning whites.
The odds facing him would be long. At this point, Walsh enjoys a 100-1 funding advantage, sitting on war chest of $3.3 million to Jackson’s pocket change of $32,000.
No one has unseated a Boston mayor in 67 years — and the 1949 race that saw John Hynes pull off the feat came after incumbent James Michael Curley had served a stint in federal prison.
Contested races are good for officeholders and for the communities they serve. They make candidates sharpen the case for their election, and can allow for a healthy give and take on the issues of the day. The low-water mark for Boston mayoral politics unquestionably came in 1997, when Menino ran unopposed for a second term.
At this point, two things, seemingly at odds with each other, are both true: A Jackson victory is hard to imagine, but an uncontested race for mayor of Boston is something no one should want.
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